This letter was written by Starling M. Manly (1818-Bef1881) who enlisted in March 1862 as a private in Co. C., 32nd Alabama Infantry. Starling was considered “not able bodied” in April 1863 and was ordered at that time to detached service in a Confederate hospital at Chattanooga by General Bragg. He was on duty in Chattanooga for at least two months. Starling married Martha Jane Broughton (1839-1901). He is buried in Magnolia Cemetery in Mobile, Alabama.
Starling wrote the letter to Mary Emaline Matthews (1846-1932), the daughter of William J. Matthews (1823-1874) and Caroline Crouch (1827-1911). Not long afterwards, Mary married John Dowell McCrary (1839-1926) of Jackson County, Alabama, and the couple had at least twelve children together born between 1865 and 1888. John D. McCrary served as a private in Co. C, 18th Alabama Infantry. Mary’s gravestone is inscribed with the following: “She was the sunshine of our home.”
Addressed to Miss Mary E. Matthews, Care of Mr. John Matthews, Cuba, Sumter County, Alabama
Ash Creek [Gordonsville, Lowndes County, Alabama]
September 29, 1864
My Dear Mary,
I received yours of the 21st on Monday last and am thankful to learn that you had regained your health. You say “it seems strange that you are not going back” — to school, I suppose you mean — and that you often think it would be better for you to return to school this session. Doubtless you might accomplish much in a year. And I hope you will be made the instrument of doing much good in aiding one who is kept very busy. You say, “If I was only good, I would be contented, but my faults loom up before me & I shrink back appalled.” The scripture informs us that “there is none that doeth good, no not one.” You refer to your quick temper & infer that I know nothing of the evils of that infirmity. In that you are mistaken, but I have cause to thank God for grace given to me to enable me to control mine. It requires constant prayerfulness & watchfulness. God has promised “grace to help in time of need” & when do we need more grace than [when] we feel our evil tempers rising & tempting us to say or do something which we will sincerely regret a short time after. On such occasion I have found it the safest method to keep silent & mentally implore Divine Aid.
In the connection which you expect shortly to form, you will doubtless find trials, but I think I can safely say I know of no one who is better calculated to make a wife happy. He has ever been a most dutiful & affectionate son & has never shrunk from any sacrifice to which he has been called to contribute to the comfort of his parents, & indeed, all with whom he is associated. But you have had ample opportunity to know all about him in this aspect. You must agree to act in concert & with entire confidence towards each other, & by the grace of God, I hope you will be as happy as it but for us poor mortals to be on earth.
I have just received a letter from Dr. M. saying he expects to start for me on the 3rd or 4th. If he comes at that time & nothing hinders, we may return from the 12th to the 15th. I am writing hurriedly as an opportunity offers to send this to Benton from which point it will reach you sooner than from Hayneville. All were well at home. Chapman Hester is not able to walk at all. None of the ladies of either family were in church on Sunday. Love to your Mother & Father.
Affectionately, — S. M. Manly